“This is One Epic Vietnam Motorbike Itinerary”
Are you planning to ride a motorbike across Vietnam or even go by bus? Two weeks or two months? North to south or east to west?
Fear not. This ultimate Vietnam motorbike itinerary is for you.
I’ve made several motorbike trips around Vietnam where I’ve visited large cities and small ethnic villages. Drank the strongest rice whiskey and the best mountain coffee. Slept in boutique resorts and in hammocks in the jungle. I did all this so that you get the ultimate Vietnam travel itinerary!
This article combines all of my trips in Vietnam to give you a decent overview of what to expect and where to go.
Let’s get started with the Ultimate Vietnam Motorbike Itinerary!
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – 3 nights
Sit down, get a cold beer and and a bowl of Pho soup. You’ve arrived in Vietnam with a huge journey ahead.
Now continue reading.
Ho Chi Minh City is the starting or ending point for most travelers in Vientnam. One way or another you’ll end up here.
Why start in Ho Chi Minh City? It is the easiest place to buy a motorbike in Vietnam and get it fitted with a luggage rack for your long ride.
Ho Chi Minh City is also an ideal place to meet other travelers. It is better having company than doing Vietnam completely solo.
- Can Tho – 1 night
First stop, Can Tho. Instead of going north on this Vietnam motorbike itinerary, we make a small detour south.
Can Tho is a few hours ride south of Ho Chi Minh City. It is home to the iconic Can Tho Floating Market and the huge Meekong Delta. This is where the mighty Meekong River meets the sea, spanning an area of 39,000 square kilometers.
Riding south to Can Tho uses one of the country’s busiest highways can be a scary first leg. Be sure to leave early in the morning as riding at night gets dangerous due to the amount of trucks on the road.
- Phu Quoc Island – 2 nights
Next we’re taking the motorbikes to an island. Phu Quoc Island to be specific.
Pho Quoc is located about 2hrs off the south west coast of Vietnam. This island is a throwback to Vietnam’s earlier days. Dirt roads circle the island with undeveloped beaches dotting the coast.
Discover small fishing villages or do a scuba diving day trip. Add Phu Quoc Island to your Vietnam motorbike itinerary for a unique destination that many other travelers are sure to miss.
- Cat Thien National Park – 1 night
Cat Thein National Park is my preferred first stop north of Ho Chi Minh City. The alternative is to head to Mui Ne however the road is heavy with trucks.
On the way to Cat Thien National Park you’ll ride back roads for hours through small villages. Once you reach the park entrance take the ferry across the river and spend a night out in the jungle.
Wake up in the morning to the sound of Gibbons calling, then spend your day searching for the last White Rhino, an enigma of sorts. Relax by the riverside and enjoy the Vietnam’s slow life.
Cat Thien National Park is less known but an amazing destination compared to Mui Ne., Definitely add it to your Vietnam motorbike itinerary.
- Dalat – 2 nights
You might be familiar with Dalat from the coffee bean stores scattered throughout Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Dalat is located in Vietnam’s southern highlands. It is home to many of Vietnam’s coffee fields and fruit plantations.
Dalat is popular for its French style Chateu buildings which are perched up on the mountain side. Enjoy the slow lifestyle and the cool mountain weather. It is a nice change from the hot and humid coastal cities.
- Nha Trang – 2 nights
Nha Trang is one Vietnam’s larger coastal citites. It was also formerly a US Army Base during the Vietnam War. While many travelers visit the Vinapearl theme park, there are more authentic attractions about.
Located 50km north of Nha Trang is the Ninh Hoa Salt Fields. This was featured as the cover for Lonely Planet’s 2012 Vietnam guide. To experience the Ninh Hoa salt fields you’ll have to leave Nha Trang by 4am.. Work here finishes shortly after the sun comes up. Arrive late and it’ll be a lifeless salt flat.
- Hoi An – 3 nights
Hoi An is an idyllic town in central Vietnam. Chinese style shop houses line the river banks while locals go around the small streets by bicycle. Head down to the Thu Bon River at night where you can get dinner and a beer on a junk boat. Did I mention it is also cheap?
Hoi An is also famously known for its clothing production. With plenty of tailors begging for your attention as you walk the streets you’re sure to get sucked in. Pick up a custom screen printed t-shirt here as a trip souvenir for as little as USD 5 per piece. I still have mine!
- Hai Van Pass
The Hai Van Pass is the road that we’ve all come to love after Top Gear did their “Vietnam Special” back in 2008.
Honestly the views from this road are stunning, even more so when you ride at sunset like I did. This 21 km winding road only requires an hour or so to conquer. It will form part of your longer day’s ride from Hoi An or Danang to Hue.
There are no overnight stops here unless your motorbike breaks down.
- Hue – 3 nights
Hue is one of the most cultural cities I’ve experienced on this Vietnam motorbike itinerary. It is a city which combines history over many centuries.
Whether you want to visit the Imperial City from Vietnam’s Dynasty Era, or see the destruction left behind of the Vietnam War there are plenty of things to do in Hue. It is best to add 3 nights in Hue to your plans. Grab a bicycle and explore the sleepy streets, or hop on board a boat and cruise down the perfume river.
- Dong Ha – 1 night
Dong Ha is a lesser known city located north of Hue on Vietnam’s east coast. The most iconic attraction is the Vinh Moc Tunnels from the Vietnam War. The Vinh Moc Tunnels are similar to the Chu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, yet far more extensive and large enough to walk through.
Secretly you didn’t get this tip from The Lost Passport, but ignore the ‘no entry’ sings underground and you can find a secret exit to the beach. Check out my short youtube clip on the Vinh Moc Tunnels for all the action.
- Kon Tum – 2 nights
Kon Tum is another coffee producing district located in the southern highlands. It’s actually one of the poorest regions in Vietnam and is home to many ethnic hill tribes in the surrounding areas.
Explore outside the city to discover the village life. He you will find the traditional tall houses serving as village community centers. Along the way you’ll probably meet smiling local kids who are all too keen for a photo.
A visit to Kon Tum is an essential addition to your Vietnam motorbike itinerary. It will open your eyes to Vietnam’s true rural culture.
- Khe Sanh – 1 night
Khe Sanh is was home to the bloodiest and longest battle of the Vietnam War. Over one thousand soldiers died fighting here.
These days this little mountain town is the gateway to the amazing Ho Chi Minh Trail West. The 300km winding mountain route makes its way up to the Phong Nha Khe Bang National Park. This single landed concrete road is one of the emptiest you’ll experience in this entire Vietnam motorbike itinerary.
Warning: Be careful wandering off the track up this way as there is plenty of UnExploded Ordinance lying about.
- Phong Nha Khe Bang National Park – 3 nights
If you are a National Geographic fan then you are sure to know about this place. Phong Nha Khe Bang National Park is home to Hang Don Soon the world’s largest caves discovered only in 2013. This outranks the world’s second largest cave which is also in the same national park.
There are multiple treks to the caves available starting from one day right up to seven days. If you prefer to enjoy the tranquil settings then head out to the Phong Nha Farmstay and enjoy a cold beer on the rooftop for sunset.
- Ninh Binh – 2 nights
Ninh Binh is commonly referred to as the inland Halong Bay. This name refers to the thousands of karst mountains and lakes scattered throughout the countryside. It is also equally as beautiful as Halong Bay.
Get really off the beaten track by exploring these small rice farming villages by bicycle. Villagers out here are extremely friendly and will likely offer you free shots of homemade rice spirits!
- Hanoi – 3 nights
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and the finishing point for many in their Vietnam motorbike itinerary.
Home to 7.5 million people, Hanoi still feels like a large village rather than an industrialized city. Expect to see women pedaling around the street selling fruit, plenty of coffee stores and tiny chairs down side alleys offering hot Pho noodle soup.
Although we have reached the main city in the north of Vietnam, this ultimate Vietnam motorbike itinerary does not end here. From Hanoi, you still have the option of traveling east to Halong Bay or north to the highlands on the China border.
- Cat Ba Island – 3 nights
Have you considered taking your motorbike into Halong Bay? Sounds crazy but it is possible. Cat Ba Island is technically located in Lan Ha Bay, slightly north of Halong Bay. Although less known it is still an equally amazing destination to visit.
Cat Ba is one of the largest islands in the bay and offers plenty of accommodation, secluded beaches, rock climbing and day trips out on the bay. Get to Cat Ba Island with your motorbike by taking a ferry from Haiphong.
- Bac Kan – 1 night
Bac Kan is a rural town in northern Vietnam and home to the picturesque Ba Bae Lake. This destination is located mid-way up from Hanoi to Cao Bang Province and is an ideal overnight stop.
There are a number of budget hotels and homestay accommodation options around the lake in a relaxing countryside setting.
- Ban Gioc Waterfall – 1 night
Located on the northern Vietnam-China border, the impressive Ban Gioc Waterfall is Vietnam’s largest. Although plastered all over the walls of travel agents in Hanoi, this waterfall is rarely visited by western tourists. Be sure to drop into the nearby Ngam Ngou Cave if you have time also.
- Cao Bang – 1 night
Cao Bang is both the province and city in northeast Vietnam. The city of Cao Bang feels like an oversized village but not on the same scale as Hanoi.
Here you can explore the riverside and stop by small cafes and the morning markets. You can quickly get a local feel of this authentic northern Vietnam town.
However, for a true countryside experience try staying at the Kieu Chinh family homestay. This homestay is located about 50km outside of Cao Bang in the rural district of Quang Uyen. Full directions available in my article.
- Bao Lac – 1 night
The small village of Bao Lac is located at the foothills of Vietnam’s northern mountain ranges. The tranquil town is home to a twice monthly market in which hundreds of ethnic villagers descend form the mountains to sell their local produce.
Every other day of the month the town is rather quiet, but a peaceful rest stop before heading up the mountains.
- Dong Van – 1 night
The mountain route from Bao Lac to Dong Van, via Meo Vac, is easily Vietnam’s most amazing road. It is called the Ma Pi Leng Pass.
Ride up the steep mountain pass to an altitude of over 2,000m. Feel the air temperature drop down to a chilly 5 degrees C in the winter. Be completely awestruck with panoramic views over the mountain ranges. Get my full guide to the Ma Pi Leng Pass here.
This is a road that you will ride once and never forget. Actually, you will probably be tempted to ride it a few times!
- Ha Giang – 1 night
Ha Giang is a medium sized city at the western foothills of the mountain range. This city is a popular launching or rest point for adventure motorcycle riders heading up the mountains.
The altitude at Ha Giang is where the temperature starts to drop down to a cool 5 to 10 degrees in winter. Be sure to pack your jacket, scarf and gloves if you plan to continue motorbiking up the mountains form here.
- Sapa (Lao Cai) – 3 nights
The northern city of Sapa has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Famous for hill treks, homestay style accommodation, this is the more tourism tuned version of Ha Giang.
Perhaps the most iconic aspect of Sapa is the terraced rice fields climbing hundreds of meters up steep mountainside.
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